It’s taken me a while to document the story of how our sweet little sparrow came into this world for a lot of reasons, probably the most potent of all being that it’s a rare chunk of time that we get to sit down and take a breath these days!
Our original “calendar” due date was Monday October 9th, however at our 9-week ultrasound, based on Austin’s size / development, they had bumped us up by a few days, so Wednesday October 4th was the due date that we used for pretty much the entire pregnancy. Because of this, when Wednesday October 4th came and went…. I was so disappointed! I knew that first babies were quite often late (up to two weeks!), but was still so hoping that we wouldn’t fall into this category and that we would get to meet him sooner than later.
I took my last “bump photo” just before our due date on the 4th, but never ended up writing a 39-week post because I was getting kind of moody and impatient, and thought that if I kept pushing it off one more day – maybe I wouldn’t end up having to write one after all?! 😉
We had our last midwife appointment on Monday October 2nd, and I left that appointment feeling so discouraged that we could still be so far away from the big day. There was all kinds of talk about induction methods, and all of them just sounded terrible to me. I was also feeling zero signs of labour (or even IMPENDING labour) at this point, and really felt like we were going to end up needing an induction at 41+ weeks. Matt tried his best to cheer me up after the appointment, but I was feeling pretty down in the dumps. I definitely found my emotions ramping up quite a lot in the last week of my pregnancy, which I’m sure is a combination of the hormones, and the stress of the upcoming labour / delivery.
Our due date came and went on October 4th, and there were still no signs of labour. I was becoming considerably more uncomfortable with each passing day (minute and hour it felt like!), having a bit of a harder time breathing, sleep was almost completely non-existent because I just couldn’t find a position to get comfortable and was up most of the night, and finding it much harder to move around as well. I took a few fitness classes that week (Newbody and BodyPump) to try and get things moving with some squats / lunges / walking etc, but no dice! The last class that I took before the big day was actually on our due date – BodyPump. I thought that was pretty cool – to be in the gym working out on our due date! It did really help me to get out of the house and force myself to do something other than stare at my belly and wait. I was also struggling quite a bit with really low self-esteem about how my body was looking / feeling at this stage.
Over the weekend, I was restless, moody and emotional. I was so blue on Saturday that I literally watched all three Star Wars movies (the newer ones, not the originals) back to back to back and hardly left the couch. That’s over 9 hours of TV if you’re keeping track LOL….I just didn’t have the motivation / energy to do anything at all…..poor Matt felt terrible and didn’t know how to help, but in reality, little did we both know that changes were coming…..
I went to bed on Saturday night gearing up for another sleepless, uncomfortable night, but actually fell asleep pretty easily until…. I woke up around 3:30am with stomach cramps. I’ve had some stomach cramping before, but they’ve always been fairly mild and gone away quickly. These cramps felt a bit different, and much more persistent. I went to the washroom a couple of times but nothing seemed to help them go away. The third time that I went to the washroom, I noticed that I had lost my mucus plug. I was flabbergasted, my mouth literally dropped open and I think I said “oh my god” out loud…could this actually be it???
I went back to bed but my mind was racing a million miles an hour….was today the day? What did we still need to do? Was everything ready to go? I kind of gave up on sleeping and instead started keeping track of the cramps coming and going on my phone. They were totally sporadic and inconsistent, so I wasn’t even sure that they were contractions at this point, I was still calling them stomach cramps.
I went to the washroom again, and there was quite a bit of “bloody show”….another sign of labour, and a more clear sign that things were starting to happen. I once again couldn’t believe it. This time, I went into our guest room where all of our hospital bags were packed and waiting, and rifled through our file folder looking for the grid where our family and friends had guessed the birth date / weight / time at our baby shower back in June! A couple of people (including my brother Andrew and his girlfriend!) had guessed October 8th, and I had a feeling that they were going to be the winners at that point!
Around 6am, I was getting weary of tracking these sporadic cramps, and not noticing any pattern or consistency whatsoever. I managed to close my eyes and get about an hour of sleep before giving up completely and getting up to come downstairs.
As soon as Matt was up, I told him about the cramps and the other symptoms and we both were totally jittery thinking that this could be the day! I knew that things would have to ramp up significantly though, because the cramps were still so unpredictable, and pretty mild at this point (I say no more then a 2 – 3 out of 10 on the pain scale, at most).
We spent the day nervously doing errands: grocery shopping, hanging some last pictures around our house, taking out the garbage, I baked a big batch of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins……….all the while, the cramps marched on in their inconsistent little pattern. Sometimes I would have to pause what I was doing to take a deeper breath through them, but the pain level was still totally manageable.
My parents texted later that afternoon asking if we were still coming over for dinner that night. We debated, and I ended up deciding that yes I could make it through dinner without letting on that things were happening. Matt and I had wanted to keep our labour / delivery as more of an experience just for the two of us, and let our family / friends know after Babe was here. These plans kind of threw a bit of a wrench into things, but since the pain was totally manageable at this point, we decided to just go with it.
Dinner was pretty uneventful, although I was getting more and more uncomfortable and a bit more anxious as the minutes / hours marched on. We left my parents early after dinner around 8:30pm and got home just before 9:00pm. Oddly enough, as soon as we got home, things started to ramp up on the pain scale pretty significantly. I was camped out on the couch watching Friends on Netflix for a good part of the evening, but it was getting to the point where I couldn’t ignore the stomach cramps anymore as they would come and go (or I guess now – I could call them contractions officially). I had to breathe much deeper as each one came and went. I was still managing okay, but definitely starting to get more and more anxious about my ability to deal with the pain as it ramped up. My hope was that since the cramps / contractions had been going on all day long, that we were starting to make progress now that things were getting more and more intense by the minute. Contractions were also starting to come a little closer together, although still pretty sporadic.
Matt was asleep on the other end of the couch, but woke up around 3am. I wanted him to get as much sleep as possible because I had a feeling that it was going to be a really, really long day. By 3am, I was having a much harder time dealing with the pain of each contraction. The best way that I can describe them was a deep, burning stomach cramp, sort of similar to a period cramp, but much deeper, and much more intense. Kind of an extreme twisting / burning sensation deep in my lower stomach. Up until this point, you wouldn’t have necessarily known that I was having contractions to look at me, but from then on it was pretty obvious when I had each one.
Matt and I worked through contractions from 3am until about 5:30am. I was starting to get really panicky about the pain level, and in my mind, had already decided that I was going to get the epidural as soon as I got to the hospital. I had gone into the whole thing with the mindset that I would see how I was dealing with the pain and make a decision from there, and everyone that I had talked to had told me that I would know right away whether or not I was going to want drugs or not. They were right! My sole focus at that point became getting to the point where we could go to the hospital so that I could get some pain relief.
I had Matt call our midwives at some point between 3am and 5am and tell them that we were in labour, and that I was keen to go to the hospital ASAP for some pain relief. Our midwife was kind, but firm that with our contractions still so irregular and far apart, and with the pain level that I was describing, that I wasn’t in a position yet where they would admit me to the hospital, and they wouldn’t be able to give me anything for pain at this point either. She encouraged us to wait a while longer until contractions were 4 minutes apart and significantly stronger. I was a bit snappy with her on the phone and said that I had no intention of waiting until I was in excruciating pain to go to the hospital, and that I would try and wait a while longer, but when I was done, I was done. She cheerily agreed and recommended that I take two extra-strength Tylenol and a Graval and try to get some sleep in between contractions.
Those poor people – having to deal with distraught mothers in labour and deliver the message that they can’t have drugs just yet…*shudder*…
From about 5am until 8am, we went through the same pattern, with contractions increasing in pain level, but not necessarily falling into a super reliable rhythm. The frustrating thing for us was that we would have 5 or 6 contractions in a row that fell into a good rhythm about 4 – 6 minutes apart…. but then the next several would be 12 minutes, 8 minutes, 15 minutes….it felt so discouraging and like we were taking 2 steps forward, 3 steps backward. The ever-increasing pain wasn’t helping at all either. Around 8:30am, I was feeling like I was approaching my breaking point, and had Matt call our midwives back, even though we weren’t at the 4-minute interval mark. Although I know that they weren’t overly thrilled to hear from us before the prescribed time, I was feeling like I couldn’t take much more, and was getting very anxious to go to the hospital. They asked me a few questions, and finally agreed to come over to our house to check my progress and tell us if we were ready to go to the hospital.
It was a little after 9am on Monday morning by the time they got to our house, and I was in significant pain when they arrived. They checked my progress and I was absolutely devastated when they told me that I was only 2 – 3cm dilated that point, and the hospital would not admit or give anything for pain until I was past the 4cm mark or in “active” labour. I started to cry when they told me about my progress and just felt so helpless and frustrated. I didn’t think there was any possible way that I could make it another several hours to get to the point that we needed to be at.
After the midwives left, I did some more crying for a bit, but then I kind of had a shift in mentality and decided to try and buck up a little bit. Rather than just sit back and let each contraction wallop me, I tried to get a bit more active in breathing through them, and even decided to try sitting in our bathtub for a little while (which had seemed like such a chore before labour started – I never thought I would be one to like sitting in the tub!). Matt was so wonderful the whole time, was super positive (without annoying the hell out of me – an impressive feat at this point in time) and supportive, and I’m pretty sure that if I had told him that murdering a baby animal would have helped me in any way, he would have done it without asking any questions.
From 9am until about 12:00pm, I sat in a hot bath, and worked really hard (with Matt by my side) to control my breathing. Miraculously, it worked quite well, and I was able to last for hours longer then I thought I could. For some reason, between 12 and 12:30, I started to get anxious to get out of the bath and get onto the next step in the process (read: hospital). At this point, Matt had to send some pretty loaded text messages to the rest of our family because we were scheduled to go over to my parent’s place for Thanksgiving dinner that night, with Matt’s brother Troy and his Dad who was also in town…..yikes!! We were clearly in no shape to be going to Thanksgiving dinner, hospital or no hospital, so it was time to break the news.
I got out of the tub and migrated into our guest room where shit got real; REAL fast. It had been a mistake to get out of the tub before I knew that it was time to go to the hospital FOR SURE, because for some reason the pain intensity picked way up once I got out of the water, and even my super measured breathing and full attention to getting through each one was hardly keeping me afloat anymore. Matt sent out his message to our family telling them that we wouldn’t be at dinner because we had another pressing engagement (lol) to attend, and by the time that was done, I told him in no uncertain terms that this time I meant it…. I was DONE, and we were going to the hospital, whether the midwives agreed or not. He called the midwives and relayed this message (in a much politer tone then I would have), and they agreed that by this point, it was likely that I was at least another centimeter along, and that they should be able to do something with me. HALLELUJAH – we were on our way to the hospital.
Matt got all of our preassembled hospital bags together and loaded into the car, all the while maintaining polite conversation with our busy body neighbor (this older guy who literally sits outside on his step all day long and waits to ask questions about what we’re doing….). Our neighbor kind of drives me crazy on the best of days, and I was in NO mood to make small talk on my way out to the car, so when I heard his voice, irrational Sara actually turned around and started back up the stairs as if I wasn’t going after all LOL…too funny…Matt waited for a minute or so until he disappeared into his garage for something and then flagged me to hurry outside (you know – as quickly as a 40.5 week pregnant, in labour person can hurry anyways) and into the car. Once we were loaded in, Matt peeled backwards down the driveway like Vin Diesel, prompting me to shriek at him to TAKE IT EASY, as every tiny bump felt like a dagger through my belly! We’ve chuckled about this a few times since the big day…
The ride to the hospital was painful, but I was relieved to be on our way there. I got a bit weepy when we started getting closer because I was starting to realize that I was going to have to get myself from the car, all the way through the hospital, up to the third floor, and I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. Somehow, someway, we very slowly made our way through the hospital and up to the maternity ward. A couple of people along the way made comments that I didn’t look too well, or something to that effect, and I can’t say I disagreed with them lol at that point I’d been awake for about 34 hours straight (with only about 3 hours of sleep BEFORE that as well), and had been in significant pain for about 15 of those hours.
We checked in at the maternity ward and it felt like it took forever at the front desk, even though we had pre-registered. I remember leaning up against the railing on the side of the wall and just closing my eyes willing for it all to end. We finally, finally got sent down the hall to our room (Room #8 lol) and our midwives were there waiting for us when we arrived. I remember seeing the little incubator / bassinet on the other side of the room from the bed, and thinking that hopefully in just a little while, our Babe would be here laying in that bassinet!
One of our midwives asked me when I got into the room what I would like to do for pain management, and if I wanted an epidural. I didn’t hesitate – YES, immediately please. They checked my progress and found that I was 4 -5cm. I was disappointed to have progressed so little in the last 6 hours, but relieved that I was far enough along to get some relief. They called for the anesthesiologist right away and I was so relieved that help was on the way.
The anesthesiologist was an Asian woman who apparently has a bit of a reputation for being a tad sharp with laboring mothers, and our midwives warned me about this before she even came in the room. I wasn’t overly concerned at this point, I didn’t care about bedside manner, as long as she could make the pain go away! She was a little brisk, but I had no issue at all with her, and actually very much appreciated her down to business, straight forward attitude. I was so super scared of getting the epidural, but feeling anymore pain was even more scary to me, and so I bit the bullet and just went for it. I really appreciated how much the anesthesiologist talked to me throughout the procedure, telling me exactly what I was going to feel at every step of the way, what to expect, and reassuring me that everything was going great. I did get myself a bit worked up at one point (purely based on anxiety – nothing physical) and told her that I was feeling a bit faint. She reacted so calmly, told me it was no problem and to go ahead and lie down on my side until it passed. Her calm reaction really helped, and the feeling passed quickly, and I was able to sit up and finish up the job shortly afterwards. I didn’t feel a thing while it was all going on – just a little bit of pressure in my back!
After the epidural, the anesthesiologist stood back to watch my contraction graph. I had two contractions with her standing in the room and didn’t feel a single thing. I felt like crying with happiness, at that point I felt so, so happy and positive, and like the hard part was over. Now all I had to do was wait and painlessly push…I felt a huge surge of confidence; the hard part was over, I could do this!
Over the next 4 hours, we rested and relaxed a little bit in our room. With me under control, poor Matt could finally take a breath himself and have some snacks from our hospital bag, and overall it was a calm, positive block of time for us. There was one wrinkle about 2 – 3 hours in however where some of the pain started to come back in one very localized area of my lower stomach. It was very strange, like one perfect square of my belly was somehow being missed by the pain medication…it started out manageable, but after about a half hour, I decided to say something about it, and we called the anesthesiologist back into the room to fiddle with my dosage a little bit. They made a couple of tweaks, and the pain subsided again, although I could still feel a little twinge during each contraction, it was very manageable, and I told the anesthesiologist that I would be fine to manage with it (the pain was only about a 2 out of 10 in that one spot – no big deal at this point in time).
Because I got the epidural (or maybe just because my body sucks and we had been at this for nearly 40 hours at this point), my contractions had basically stopped shortly after getting the drugs, and I had been started on Oxytocin drip. The Oxytocin did wonders for getting me into a regular rhythm of contractions, but as Matt commented from watching the contraction graph, “sheesh – those things look strong”. They were nearly double the length and height of the contractions that I was charting before I got the drugs. Thankfully, I wasn’t feeling any of this (except for that one localized spot), however as time wore on, the pain was slowly creeping up from a 2 / 10 in that one spot higher and higher each time.
Our midwives checked my progress around 7pm and I was absolutely astounded when she told me that I was 9cm, and just about ready to start pushing. I think my mouth literally hung open when she told me – I couldn’t believe it! I felt like dancing on the bed! I thought that we were SO close to meeting our sweet little Austin! The pain was increasing in that one section, and I mentioned a couple of times to my midwives that I was getting concerned about it. I asked if we could call the anesthesiologist back again to see if there was anything she could do to help before we started pushing.
The anesthesiologist did come back, but seemed a bit more annoyed this time and after a couple of quick adjustments basically told us that this was the best she could do, and that she really couldn’t give me any more medication, that sometimes due to the baby’s position, or just the location of certain nerves, the epidural can “miss” certain sections, and there really isn’t anything that can be done. By this point, the pain was back up close to a 7 or 8 out of 10 and I was in significant pain again. My midwives checked my progress again (about a half hour later), and told me that I was 10cm, and it was time to start pushing. I was in serious pain, but thought that I was so close to the end that I could muscle through; it would all be over so soon and I would have my Austin on my chest.
We started pushing around 7:30pm, and I quickly realized that the part of labour that I thought I would be the absolute best at…I just wasn’t. I was pushing with everything I had, three times during each contraction (which I was now feeling the full brunt of – it was excruciating), but for some reason, Austin wasn’t moving down as they expected. They checked several times, and I could tell from the looks on their faces that something was not quite right. After about an hour and a half of pushing to exhaustion, I asked if we were making any progress. My one midwife couldn’t even lie and told me that “baby is in a tough spot right now”. It turned out that our tricky little Austin had pulled a bit of a last-minute flip on us and had turned his back to my right side. This position made it extremely difficult for him to get down through the birth canal. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she told me that. I knew, without her saying it, that things were not going well, and I started to panic.
By this point, the pain had expanded outside of the localized area in my belly, and although I’m sure the epidural was still doing something, I felt as though I was feeling everything at this point. And I was losing it. I remember completely giving up during one round of pushing and just breaking down sobbing from the pain because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore. Shortly after that episode, I started to throw up from the pain, anxiety and exertion of it all. It was so violent that I nearly fell off the side of the bed.
At this point, my second midwife delivered the devastating news that Austin’s heart rate was in trouble. Baby boy had been super chill throughout our entire labour, but now his heart rate had skyrocketed and wasn’t coming back down. I was hysterical and panicked to get him out. I started trying to hold my pushes for even longer, desperate to make some progress, but nothing was happening. The midwives were in and out of the room at this point consulting with the OB on the floor, and sometimes, it was only Matt with me when I was pushing. My heart was breaking. I was terrified for Austin, terrified for Matt and I, and I just didn’t know what was going to happen to us. I can’t remember ever being so scared in my entire life.
The OB came into the room and explained what was going on to me, and told me that she was going to use a vacuum to help Austin get turned into the right position, and then with my help pushing, guide him down and out. I cried and cried when she told me her plan; I was scared for him and scared for me as well. I knew that a vacuum delivery would mean extensive tearing and that there was a risk for complications for Austin as well. I knew that we were all in trouble at this point though, and I was desperate to get him out ASAP.
It was a few (excruciating) minutes before the OB had the vacuum ready to go. By this point, each contraction was enough to send me up the wall. I was one of those crazy women you see on TV shows in labour…. except probably worse LOL. I was feeling frantic, panicky, anxiety to the point of vomiting. At some point while the OB was getting everything ready, she explained to me that there were going to be two emergency teams in the room for the birth, a respiratory team and a cardiac team, because Austin had been in distress. I did some more crying, but really at this point, hadn’t exactly stopped since everything had escalated, so it was more like “continued crying” lol
Finally, everything was ready to go, and she made her first attempt with the vacuum. It hurt like hell, and as she started to pull on him, suddenly there was this HUGE popping sound, and the she kind of flung backwards on her stool and very nearly fell right over. The vacuum hose had actually popped OFF of the vacuum head. I literally screamed out loud when this happened, I had no idea what was happening. She reassured us that it happens sometimes, and tried again. It popped off AGAIN, with the same crazy noise. I was absolutely hysterical. This thing was attached to my sweet babies HEAD, remember.
The OB looked me in the eye at that point and told me, “Don’t worry Sara, I have a Plan B, we’re going to get this baby out right now”. She then looked at Matt and told him that he needed to look away for this part. I had no idea what was happening, but the pain from whatever she was doing was enough to blur my vision and make me see stars. I was screaming at the top of my lungs.
She reattached the vacuum one more time and told me to push, which somehow, I did. She told me to keep pushing, which I did, with my eyes screwed shut. At this point, I was on another planet, I barely knew where I was anymore. Suddenly, the whole room was yelling loudly at me to LOOK, LOOK, LOOK! SARA, LOOK! I opened my eyes and looked down, to see my sweet baby laying on my chest, wriggling around and screaming his sweet little head off. I had dissociated so much from everything going on that I didn’t even realize that he had come out.
The first thing that I said (sobbed) to our baby boy was “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”. I repeated it probably 150 times, over and over and over and over and over again. I still cry thinking about everything that he had to go through to come into this world. I remember looking over at Matt, and he was also sobbing. I tearfully asked the OB and my midwives if he was breathing okay, and they all laughed and said “Listen to those pipes! He’s breathing just fine!”. The respiratory and cardiac emergency teams left the room with no work to do – thank you God.
My midwives wanted to take Austin away to do some routine newborn tests but the OB stopped them firmly and told them to leave Austin on my chest, because she still had lots of work to do on me, and I needed some natural pain relief.
The OB then looked up at me and explained what had happened. With a vacuum delivery, there are only three attempts before vacuum is no longer an option (for safety of the baby). With the first two failed attempts, she needed to make absolutely sure that this time Austin was able to come out, and so she had performed a fourth-degree episiotomy on me. Go ahead and Google it, but foretold is forewarned, it ain’t pretty even to read about.
It took an hour and a half and 40 stitches to repair the damage that was done to me. I felt every one of them, but having Austin on my chest did help with pain relief! The OB was very kind to us and reassured me that I would be okay, and that things were “looking really good” after she had finished. I was in a complete state of shock, and still didn’t quite comprehend exactly what had happened to me. I was so relieved that Austin was out and was doing okay. He passed all of his newborn tests with flying colours and it was the one saving grace for me.
We’ve come too far together for me to start lieing to you all now. Austin’s birth was the most traumatic experience that has ever happened to me. At the same time, no matter how traumatic it was (and continues to be if I’m being honest, I still cry every time I think about it), it brought us our sweet little sparrow, and he is perfect and healthy, and I wouldn’t trade the outcome for the entire world.
Today is 17 days post-delivery, and I am just starting to come to terms with our birth story. My ultimate desire for our labour and delivery was to bring Austin into the world in some sort of a calm, peaceful way. I didn’t want to be a crazy person screaming and climbing the walls of the hospital, which was why I was so steadfast on being open to pain, if I relief needed it. I was also desperately afraid of being cut in any way (C-section or otherwise), and well, we all know how that turned out! More than anything though, I wanted to be able to look back on our birth story with some sort of pride that I was able to do what women have done for centuries, successfully and safely bring a child into the world.
It’s taken me until this stage to associate an ounce of pride with our birth story. For the first two weeks post-delivery, I truly hated myself for how everything went down. If only I hadn’t been such a baby and needed the epidural, maybe things would have been different. If I had been better at pushing, maybe things would have been different. If I had been able to stay calm in the face of pain and uncertainty and stop myself from vomiting, maybe things would have been different. I still carry a lot of these feelings with me. I think I will for the rest of my life. That being said, with a little bit more space between the birth and where we are now, I’m starting to see that regardless of how things went down, we did get through it together, all three of us. Our birth was not an easy one, nor was it a routine one, and all three of us made it safely out the other side. That, in itself, is what I am proud of. I truly hope that as more time passes, that I can find more aspects of our birth story to be proud of, but if I don’t, then that’s okay too. We have our baby boy, I will heal eventually, and we will look back at all of this with a rueful smile someday.
I’ve had a lot of thoughts about future pregnancies and deliveries since all of this has gone down, and I’d be lieing if I said that I wasn’t a bit scarred from what ended up happening to Austin during our delivery, but the simple fact is that Matt and I want a big family, and I refuse to let what happened this time change anything about that, so we’re going to walk this road again, and again and again! Maybe with a bit more knowledge and a few more lessons from the school of hard knocks next time 😉
Documenting our birth story here has been therapeutic for me as well, so I thank you for taking the time to read it, and to all of you who have reached out to offer words of encouragement and advice as well. I am surrounded by an incredible network of people, and for the past two weeks, I’ve had no choice but to kind of surrender all control into the safety net of those around me. It isn’t lost on me how lucky I am, and I know that with all of the love around us, that I will heal quickly, and all of this will be put behind us before too much longer – leaving only the happy outcomes behind!
All my love,